Since the Eighties, when wrap around midsoles became universal, my wide feet have refused to fit into lightweight boots. That’s not such a bad thing as lightweight boots are rubbish. They can’t edge as effectively as a full winter boot and they will not smear at all. Back in the days of Bionics and Trionics I fell over much more frequently than I had done previously or have done since. Unfortunately, lightweight boots would have been just the ticket for the non-technical but soggy trails of my Spring backpacking trip from Kintyre to Cape Wrath. Instead, I had to use Roclite 295s because they were the only available footwear I could get into.
My first mistake was a big one. In the past, Inov8 footwear had been very comfortable out of the box. I wasn’t sure how long the Roclite 295s would last so I decided not to risk breaking them in. On the first wet hill, out of Innean Glen, they skinned my heels. At least that gave me an opportunity to discover the miraculous, modern technopoultice, Compeed. Excellent stuff. Unfortunately, the shoes’ cardboard-like heel cups meant that I stayed in Compeed until Fort William.
At Fort Billy, I took a time out. As the shoes had already acquired The Stink, I put them through a lengthy cycle in a washing machine. This greatly improved both their comfort and their odour. No more Compeed. The time out also gave me a chance to let some skin grow back, not only on my heels. The open weave of the Roclites’ uppers lets through fine grit as well as water. My feet had become quite pink after 16 days of abrasion. I learned the hard way that these shoes need washing out as often as possible.
There is some good news. The Roclites grip turf well and are at least as good on rock slabs as anything else I have tried short of a climbing shoe. I slithered around in the mud above the Douchary gorge but so did everyone else who wasn’t using football studs. The Cape Wrath Trail does not stick to paths. Their useful tread pattern and light weight meant that progress in Roclites was quite quick for stretches of heather and tussocky grass. These shoes will not slow down a fit backpacker. Their light weight also makes them the perfect shoes to put in a pannier during a bike ‘n’ hike.
Instep protection is reasonable but the rand does inhibit the escape of water from below the foot. I appreciate that many people hate being able to feel stones beneath their shoes’ soles. Roclite 295s are not for them. Personally, I like being aware of what’s under my feet as I then know whether the shoe is about to slide.
The other good news is that they could do the trip again. The soles are worn and some of the uppers’ stitching has failed but the shoes still look fit for another 450 miles. New insoles would be a good idea as they have compressed under the sole but the minimal padding in the midsole still feels OK.
To sum up, Inov8 Roclite 295s are best suited to people with wide feet. They need breaking in and daily foot care is required if using them. Grit can get in and in wet conditions, feet never dry out. They offer the potential for fast progress across most types of terrain outside winter and are a good bit more durable than first impressions might suggest.